5 Steps for Clearer, More Refined Presentations

Presenters often have too much to talk about.

This is a big problem. Leaders have too much to share and they try to fit every detail into the presentations.

In films, writings, and speeches, brevity is king. The best have a way of cutting out the unnecessary and leaving only the main points that leave the audience entertained, educated or enlightened.

The following are 5 steps you can take to create clearer, more refined presentations.

1. Make a Statement with an Example

Tim Leberecht TED

In his TED talk, 3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand, Tim Leberecht uses examples straight away in the opening of his presentation. Instantly the audience is drawn into the topic.

In the talk, Tim says that companies are losing control of their brand. The Internet has changed the way companies can control what people say. The world is a much more public place today than it has been in the past.

This is a perfectly fine statement on its own, but if Tim were to continue giving statements at this point he would lose his audience.

Instead, Tim uses a great step for clearer, more refined presentations. He uses an example of a chocolate company that gives control to users by encouraging them to be nice to others. The next example is about Microsoft, which called on hackers to break into its systems to spot weaknesses.

These examples are short. They take up only a few short seconds in the presentation, but they give the audience a clear picture of how brands can yield control in the new century of business.

Use examples in your presentations to create a clear message that people can understand.

2. Personal Stories Quickly Capture Attention and Provide Understanding

Evan Williams TED

In one of the most popular TED talks of all time, Listening to Twitter users, Evan Williams shared the story of creating the popular social media website, Twitter.

The point of the talk is that companies can learn much about what people want by simply listening. With Twitter, Evan and his co-founders didn’t really understand what they had. There was a basic concept, but they launched without really having a set focus. It wasn’t until people started using the platform that Twitter became what it is today.

In the beginning of the talk Evan shares a personal story he has about creating the company Blogger and uses that in comparison with creating Twitter. Both were side projects, but as the people involved listened to each other and to users they soon realised these two items should take on more focus.

This personal story takes about a minute to share yet people almost instantly understand the point Evan is making about listening to what people want.

You can use personal stories in a business setting.

If your business is going through a change you can share how this is not the first time this has happened. Share the story of how the business successfully made changes in the past and include the core values that held the business together during the change.

A personal story does a much better job of communicating than just sharing the point you want to make. With stories you’ll be better able to sell people on your ideas and get them on board with any changes you have to make.

3. Timelines Can Keep People Focused and Eager for What’s Next

Jose Bowen TED

The trick with presentations is keeping them short and sweet. Timelines can be a step in the process of refining your presentation, but you have to be careful. You don’t need to include every detail in the timeline. Focus on the important steps along the way and present only what’s necessary to sell people on the point you’re making.

In the TED talk, Beethoven The Businessman, Jose Bowen uses the timeline method to discuss how Beethoven changed the music world long before Motown or even Napster. Beethoven created sheet music and successfully allowed others to play his music, which at the time was unheard of throughout the world.

Bowen continues on in the timeline to share the key points along the way of exactly how Beethoven used keen business sense along with his marvelous music to become perhaps the most successful musician still to this day.

Timelines are great tools for creating effective presentations. If you find yourself in need to refining for your presentation consider using a timeline. Lay out the key points that will help the audience gain and understanding of what it is you’re planning and how it will benefit them.

Leave some of the thinking up to those listening. Bowen uses his timeline example to plant the seed of an idea into the audience members. It’s up to those people to take the next step. That’s important with any presentation. Get people interested in what your point and then get them to take action in the best interest of the company.

4. Lists Make Presentations Easier to Comprehend

Don Tapscott TED

People like steps. We like lists because a list allows us to see a beginning, middle and end. We like to know what is coming. We look ahead. We scan things so we can understand the basis of what we’re getting into when we invest more time.

Don Tapscott shares his view of the future and openness in his TED talk, Four Principles for The Open World. The talk has hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of likes. People like this presentation.


Well, Don is a great speaker. He has a great topic, but beyond that he did a great job of creating a structure that makes it easy for people to view and comprehend.

Don used a list.

In this presentation there are four principles. Don could have created a presentation simply about the open world or open business in the future, but that title wouldn’t have worked as well to get people interested and it wouldn’t have likely held people’s attention either.

Don used a list, we can assume, because people understand the structure of a list. When the people in the audience listened to the presentation live or when someone chooses to watch this presentation on TED they understand they will get four points. It’s very clear how things will work. Don will go through four points. We’ll know that once he gets to the second point we’ll be nearly halfway through.

Later, when the presentation is over people will be more likely to remember the concept of an open world because they’ll remember the four points. It’s easier to pick up the message because we remember the key principles.

Think back to the good presentations you’ve heard in the business setting. There is a good chance those presentations were broken down into segments or lists. If you have a long speech, break it down into a list. Short blocks of information are much easier to comprehend than one long presentation.

5. Start the Presentation Without Giving Away the Main Point

Margaret Hefferman TED

Finally, we have Margaret Heffernan who has been the CEO of five different companies. It’s safe to guess she’s learned to become a great speaker and presenter in the business setting. There is likely much to learn from the presentations she has given over the years, but we’re going to focus on something did with her recent TED talk, Dare to Disagree.

Margaret opens her presentation in a very unique way. She starts with the story. Again, she’s using two of the steps above – examples and stories – to communicate her message, but in this case she starts right out with the story.

The common tendency is to start with the main point of the presentation. Most people would start out by saying that it’s important to disagree with common knowledge. We would think this would give the audience an understanding of what they’re about to hear.

But that is not what Margaret does. She starts out right away with the story. It likely threw a few people off in the audience. You start to wonder what the point of this story is, but in the meantime you’re simply captured by the story.

The reason Margaret does this is to grab attention. When people have questions they pay attention. They are thinking during the presentation and making sure they’re paying attention to every detail because they want to get answer to the question about the point of the presentation.

Next, when you have to give a presentation in front of your peers consider starting straight away with the story. Don’t share the main point right away with your audience. Get them thinking about the story and what it means and only later come in with the point.

You’ll have a ready audience waiting on your every word and they will be more likely to remember the point you shared when they leave.


A big problem with presentations is being too long. It’s hard to believe for some people, but when we talk about what we love or when we share important information we tend to overcompensate with the words. We do this for a variety of reasons, but the point is that people will comprehend your points better if you’re clear and concise.

The five steps mentioned above will help you create presentations that are refined. You’ll be able to cut out the unnecessary content and get to only the core of what you need to share with your audience so they can go and take action.

With this knowledge you’ll now be able to command attention and sell your audience on your points.

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